Thai chicken

Before we get started making this recipe, let’s quickly talk about grilled chicken in Thailand.

Gai yang (ไก่ย่าง) is the Thai word for grilled chicken, and throughout Thailand you’ll find many different types of grilled chicken, depending on regional location and also just personal family recipes.

The Thai grilled chicken recipe I’m going to share with you is a type of grilled chicken that’s usually cooked using a full chicken, and you’ll commonly find similar tasting grilled chicken throughout Bangkok.

Grilled chicken (gai yang ไก่ย่าง) is especially common to eat along with som tam (green papaya salad), and hot fresh sticky rice. With this trio combination, you’ll have an award winning meal that will make your taste buds rejoice!

Ok, so let’s get started on this Thai gai yang recipe (ไก่ย่าง).

CORIANDER ROOTS ADD A WONDERFUL DEPTH OF FLAVOUR
Ingredients you’ll need
2 whole chickens (mine were 1.8 kilos per chicken)
Bamboo sticks or skewers
Charcoal
Grill

For the marinade
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce (substitute some Indonesian kecap manis)
8 tablespoons water
4 heads garlic (30 – 40 cloves)
2 stalks lemongrass
2.5 tablespoons black pepper corns
8 coriander roots (optional, but highly recommended if you can find them, you can also try the powder version – I’ve never tried it, but I think it would work)
Thai grilled chicken sauce

Keep in mind that for all these sauce ingredients, you may need to do some taste testing as you add ingredients – these are not exact amounts.

1.5 tablespoons toasted rice powder (recipe here)
1.5 tablespoons chili flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
8 tablespoons tamarind watered down (about this amount, but you can add more or less depending on your taste)
Few sprigs of cilantro to garnish
authentic Thai recipes
SLICE UP THE HERBS BEFORE POUNDING
Note: I’m going to go over some of the ingredients and techniques more in-depth below, but if you’d like to skip straight to Thai grilled chicken recipe step by step instructions, scroll down to the recipe box below.

Marinating the chicken
The first part of making this Thai grilled chicken recipe is to make the marinade.

One of the ingredients used in this Thai gai yang recipe are (ไก่ย่าง) coriander roots. Coriander roots really enhance the flavor of this grilled chicken, giving it a wonderful earthy cilantro taste. It’s not an absolute must if you can’t find it, but if you can find some coriander roots, it adds a wonderful flavor to the chicken.

Also, a heap of garlic (I literally used about 40 cloves), lemongrass, black peppercorns, and the coriander roots are the base of herbs used to make the marinade for this grilled chicken.

Thai mortar and pestle
POUND ALL THE INGREDIENTS USING A MORTAR AND PESTLE
If you’re serious about making good Thai food and don’t have a stone mortar and pestle already, I’d really recommend that you invest in one. Nearly all Thai recipes make use of a mortar and pestle, and it really helps to blend the flavours of the ingredients and release their full flavor potential.

After cutting up the herbs, I pounded all the ingredients using a Thai mortar and pestle. You could also use a food processor or blender to prepare these ingredients, but again, it’s worth it to pound them by hand for the best taste.

Thai chicken marinade
A COARSE HERBAL RUB
You don’t need to pound the ingredients to a complete paste, like you would making a Thai curry paste, but rather just make sure all the herbs are broken down and will be small enough to rub all over the chicken.

Thai palm sugar
PALM SUGAR FOR THE MARINADE
Once the dry marinade ingredients are pounded, you can then mix in the wet ingredients of the marinade.

Regular soy sauce, dark sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, palm sugar, and water all go into the marinade, and stir it all up until you’ve got a nice chunky consistency. You don’t want it to be too dry, but you don’t want it to be soupy either. Just make sure your marinade is a good consistency so that it will cover the chicken and stick.

MARINATE THE WHOLE CHICKENS
Whole chickens
You could make this recipe with just a single whole chicken, but if I’m going to bring out the grill and fire up the charcoal, I think you may as well do a couple of full chickens. You could also use chicken pieces if that’s what you have, but a whole chicken is the best option.

I’m going to make 2 full chickens for this Thai grilled chicken recipe, but feel free to make just one, or more for that matter. This recipe will remain basically the same, you might just need to increase marinade ingredients by a percentage.

Once your marinade is ready to go, put the chicken in a big mixing bowl and coat them with a thick layer of the marinade.

You want to really rub the chicken, get all that marvelous garlic to cover the skin, both sides of the chicken, and even in places like under the wings.

Bathe the chickens in that beautiful marinade – you don’t want any part of the chicken to miss out!

NOTE: If you plan ahead and can marinate your chicken overnight, it will taste the best. For this recipe, I marinated my chicken the day before, and then grilled them the next day. But if you don’t have the time, make sure you at least marinate your chicken for a few hours before grilling.

Thai grilled chicken
FLATTEN OUT THE CHICKEN WITH THE SKEWERS
How to skewer a whole chicken
This is one of my favorite parts of this entire Thai grilled chicken recipe: skewering it to prepare for the grill.

Now first of all, it’s not completely necessary to reinforce your chicken with bamboo skewers, but I will say, it makes your chicken look pretty cool – plus it is the authentic way that you’ll find whole chickens being grilled in Thailand.

What do the bamboo skewers do? The bamboo skewers make the chicken lay flat on the grill, without curling up so that it grills evenly (so they do serve a purpose). The bamboo skewers also can be used as turning devices so you don’t need to use a pair of tongs.

Take two bamboo stick, slide the chicken in, from the drumstick to the neck. Fasten both ends of the bamboo together using a piece of metal wire, and repeat this process on both sides of the chicken.

THAI GAI YANG RECIPE!
Grilling the chicken
Charcoal will give you the best flavor when it comes to grilled chicken, but if you prefer to use a gas grill, it will still work fine.

For charcoal, make sure you fully prepare your grill, light it up, and that you have a nice bed of hot coals before getting started.

You’re looking for some good heat, but indirect heat so the chicken skin doesn’t burn too fast. I like to tone down my charcoal with some leftover ashes (from the previous grilling), so that the the coals are hot, but not scorching.

Once the charcoal is ready, it’s time to put your beautifully marinated chicken on.

You want to hear that soft sizzle as they slow cook over the fire. If you hear too much sizzle, and see flames shoot up from drips of chicken oil, you might want to tone down the fire a bit so you don’t burn it.

LEAN THE CHICKEN UP TO GET IT COOKED ON ALL SIDES
Make sure you’re monitoring your chicken as it grills, you don’t want to turn it too often, as you’ll lose some chicken juices and the marinade spices, but at the same time you don’t want it to burn.

If you do use the bamboo sticks to grill your chicken, you can try out some Thai street food style grilling techniques, like standing them up together like a lean-to.

Also, make sure you keep using the extra marinade to baste onto the chicken.

Thai grilled chicken recipe
DEPENDING ON HOW BIG YOUR CHICKEN IS AND HOW HOT YOUR FIRE IS, WILL DEPEND HOW LONG IT TAKES TO COOK.
When I was making this Thai grilled chicken recipe, it took about 1.5 hours until the chickens were fully cooked.

The final step in this recipe to to remove the chickens from the grill, take off the bamboo skewers, and cut your chicken into pieces.

One of the best ways to cut gai yang (ไก่ย่าง) is by using a big chopping block and a Chinese cleaver.

First, chop the chicken in half, from the neck to the butt. Then, just make swift chops with your cleaver to cut off the wing, drumstick, and then cut the breast part of the chicken into slices.

By this time, you mouth will be watering beyond belief, and if you’re like me, you’ll probably get a sample while you’re cutting it up.

ADD HOT WATER TO THE DRY TAMARIND
Gai yang sauce​ (น้ำจิ้มแจ่ว)
When your chicken is happily grilling away, it’s time to whip up some gai yang sauce (น้ำจิ้มแจ่ว).

There are a number of different types of Thai sauces that go with grilled chicken, some people really like the sweet and sour ketchupy tasting Thai sauce from the bottle, which you can use, but I prefer a fresh tamarind based chili sauce.

I made this recipe in Thailand, but when I was visiting the United States, at the Asian supermarket, I found blocks of tamarind (you can also buy it on Amazon) pretty easily, so hopefully you should be able to find it wherever you are.

Usually the tamarind pulp will be in semi-dry form, so you just add a bit of hot water to a bowl, and start to work the tamarind until it turns into a thick soupy consistency.

THIS IS HOW YOUR GAI YANG SAUCE​ (น้ำจิ้มแจ่ว) WILL TURN OUT
Once your tamarind is ready to go, you add khao kua (toasted pounded sticky rice, which gives the sauce a little texture), chili flakes, a bit of sugar (up to you), and fish sauce to make it salty.

Thai grilled chicken sauce is sweet and sour from the tamarind, with a bit of spice from the chili. It’s a wonderful complement to grilled chicken.

Thai grilled chicken recipe (gai yang ปลาเผา)
Time: About 1.5 hours to grill (however, best to think ahead and marinate the chicken the day before)
Recipe size: 2 whole chickens (or more if you’d like)
Utensils: Grill
Flavors: Salty, smokey
Eat it with: Gai yang (ปลาเผา) is very common to eat in Thailand along with som tam (green papaya salad) and sticky rice. But really, it goes just as well with any kind of rice as well, or just as pure delicious chicken protein.

Prep time
30 mins
Cook time
1 hour 30 mins
Total time
2 hours

Recipe type: Grilled Chicken
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 4
Ingredients
2 whole chickens (mine were 1.8 kilos each)
Bamboo sticks or skewers
Charcoal
Grill
Marinade
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon sweet dark soy sauce (you can use kecap manis)
8 tablespoons water
4 heads garlic (30 – 40 cloves)
2 stalks lemongrass
2.5 tablespoons black pepper corns
8 fresh coriander roots (or you can try the powder coriander roots)
Gai Yang Sauce
1.5 tablespoons khao kua (see method here)
1.5 tablespoons chili flakes
1 tablespoon of sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
8 tablespoons tamarind juice (you can add more or less according to how strong it is and how sweet and sour you want your sauce)
Few sprigs of cilantro
Instructions
For this recipe, I’m going to cook 2 full chickens, together weighing in at 3.6 kilos. If you wanted, you could also make this recipe with 3 – 4 kilos of chicken pieces, or really, however much chicken you want.
For this gai yang (ไก่ย่าง) to be at its finest, it’s best to marinate the chicken overnight and grill it the next day, but if you don’t have the time, marinate the chicken for at least a few hours.
Chicken marinade
Peel about 4 bulbs of garlic, which should be about 30 – 40 cloves in all.
Thinly slice 2 stalks of lemongrass and cut off the roots of 8 stalks of coriander.
Now comes the hard part, pounding everything using a mortar and pestle (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle you can blend the ingredients in a food processor (but I’d really recommend you invest in a Thai style mortar and pestle).

Add small amounts of garlic, lemongrass, black peppercorns, and coriander roots to the mortar and pestle and pound them until the oils come out, and you have a coarse paste. Keep pounding until all the marinade ingredients are finished. You’ll probably need to load the mortar a few times.

Put all the pounded marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir them up, and add 4 tablespoons of light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, and 2 tablespoons of palm sugar. Mix everything together while adding about 8 tablespoons of water to the mixture. You should end up with a potent marinade that looks like a chunky garlicky sauce.

If you’re using whole chickens, you’ll want to butterfly cut them starting from the breast side down to the butt. Flatten the chickens out. This is going to prepare it for the grill (Watch the video to see how to do it).
In a big pan or mixing bowl start to rub the marinade on the chicken, making sure the garlic, herbs, and soy sauce go into all parts of the chicken. Rub down both chickens using all the marinade.
Cover the chickens and allow them to rest overnight. You might stir them a couple of times if you remember.

Grilling
The next day, take out your chicken, and the first step is to light your charcoal. You want a low even heat, coals that aren’t too hot, but a low and even.

Put the chicken on the grill and begin cooking!
Wait about 20 minutes or so (but monitoring them to make sure they don’t burn), before making your first flip. You can baste the chicken with the extra marinade.
Cook the chicken on low heat for about 1.5 hours, until the chicken is cooked through to the bone and the skin is golden dark brown on the outside.

Take the chicken off the grill, and dismantle the bamboo supports.

If you have a Chinese cleaver, first cut the chicken in half from the neck to the butt, and from there cut off the drumstick, wing, and chop the rest of the chicken into strips.

Gai yang sauce (Nam jim jaew น้ำจิ้มแจ่ว)
Semi-dried tamarind pulp can usually be bought at the supermarket in a small block. To rehydrate it, get a couple tablespoons of hot water and start to work the tamarind into the hot water. This should turn it into a nice tamarind water sauce.

In a bowl, mix 1.5 tablespoons of khao kua (toasted sticky rice, recipe here), 1.5 tablespoons of chili flakes, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, and 8 tablespoons of tamarind juice.
Mix all of the ingredients together.
After mixing up the sauce, make sure you taste test. You’re looking for the perfect sweet, sour, and salty combination. You might need to add more tamarind juice, more sugar, or more fish sauce to balance it out.
Top off your gai yang sauce with some chopped up cilantro.

Happy eating!
Notes
Thai grilled chicken (gai yang ไก่ย่าง) is often eaten with som tam (green papaya salad) and sticky rice. The combination makes for an outstandingly tasty meal!
thai grilled chicken recipe
THAT SKIN!
Conclusion
If you love grilled chicken, you’re absolutely going to love this Thai grilled chicken recipe (gai yang ไก่ย่าง).

On each and every juicy piece of chicken, you’ll taste that amazing flavour of garlic and coriander roots, black pepper, and a hint of soy sauce.

Eating bites of chicken along with that wonderful tangy tamarind dipping sauce can hardly get better. If you’re like me, you might eat a full chicken yourself!

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